Baby kangaroos who suffered terrible burns in Australian wildfires get life-saving laser treatment at specialised clinic

December 27, 2020
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Baby kangaroos who suffered terrible burns and injuries in Australia’s wildfires are receiving life-saving laser treatment from a specialised clinic.

Photos showing the fluffy creatures wearing safety sunglasses while undergoing the process have melted hearts online.

The glasses – which are called ‘doggles’ – are used on the kangaroos during laser treatment for protection, as the lasers can cause damage and even blindness if shot directly into the eyes.

‘We always have a little chuckle whenever we pop the doggles on,’ Rhys Donovan, one of the animal rehabilitation practitioners at Sydney’s Animal Rehab Klinik, said.

‘They look very cool, like the old school pilots that are about to take flight.’

Two animal rehabilitation practitioners in Australia have switched gears from curing people’s beloved pets to helping kangaroos injured in recent devastating wildfires, treating the animals with lasers that require them to wear special sunglasses

The glasses – which are called ‘doggles’ – are used on animals during this process for protection, as lasers can cause damage and even blindness if directly shot into the eyes. The laser therapy accelerates the healing process for injured animals and is also used on humans

Laser treatment is a pain-free innovation that can help both humans and animals by using specific wavelengths of light to accelerate the healing process, leading to decreased pain, increased circulation, decreased swelling, faster healing and reduced inflammation.

The clinic uses it to help animals with burns and wounds from the fires.

Staff also make special casts to help heal fractured legs and tails.

The clinic, which opened in 2018, originally catered to house pets but has adapted to provide free treatment to kangaroos injured in the fires, as well as those that have been hit by cars or involved in other accidents.

The 2019/20 bushfire season in Australia was one of the worst on record, with more than 30 people killed, including firefighters, and some 11 million hectares (110,000 sq km or 27.2 million acres) burned.

The area destroyed was home to many animals who died or became injured in the fires.

Dr Rhys Donovan poses with a patient at the Animal Rehab Klinik in Sydney, which he set up with Dr Matt Breeds in 2018, and which had mostly treated household pets before the 2019/20 wildfires

Along with the laser therapy, the clinic also makes special casts to help heal injured limbs and tails

Donovan said the clinic, which he set up with colleague Matt Breeds, offers long-term care options not widely available for animals in Australia.

‘Animal rehabilitation is not very common. Although there are vets for emergencies, there are not many places you can go for the aftercare and rehab,’ he said.

He added that he decided to start treating kangaroos after two colleagues invited him to help some that had been injured in the fires.

‘It was very intense for me to see the devastation, it was the first time I’d been exposed to that.

‘But it really started a passion in me to help the animals that had survived, it is so rewarding.

‘While it was mostly kangaroos, there are a few wombats and possums as well that we helped,’ he said.

Donovan explained that mother kangaroos were often worse off than their joeys, which they carry in a pouch on their abdomen. Many females had badly burned feet from ‘bouncing across the embers trying to escape the fires,’ the doctor said.

He explained that infant kangaroos were often less injured than their mothers as they were being carried in their pouches at the time of the fires.

‘The mums were not very well off, as they had all burns on their feet from bouncing across the embers trying to escape the fires.’

Despite the trauma and injuries endured by the animals, Donovan said many are able to recover with proper treatment.

‘It is amazing to make a positive difference to these animals and give them a quality of life,’ he said.

‘Our aim is to help wildlife either back out into the while or in a sanctuary. If their injuries are too devastating, they are safer to live in a sanctuary.

‘It is great to know we have helped make their lives better. They are such special creatures.’

Chiropractic and osteopathic practitioners by trade, Donovan and Breeds met while completing their graduate diploma of Animal Biomechanical Medicine.

They and gave up working on humans to focus on animals instead, treating cats, dogs and other household pets for various ailments at their clinic, which opened in 2018, before also taking in kangaroos.

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